Barely known in his native France, former cleaning company executive Herve Renard has now made a name for himself after coaching Zambia to victory in the Africa Cup of Nations final.
Zambia had lost their previous two attempts at the title, but beat favourites Ivory Coast to win a title they were close to in 1974 and 1994.
When he realised as a teenager he was never going to make the grade as a top professional player, Renard switched to coaching French amateurs sides but never got a chance with a first division team.
-I am not in the who's who, the 43-year-old told Reuters.
-I took out the rubbish for eight years and now I'm about to coach in the African Nations Cup final. Soccer is magical right?
Not good enough
At the age of 15, he landed in Cannes to train in one of the finest French soccer academies of the time.
-I was one of the best, said a man who played with future World Cup winners Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps in their teenage years.
-But as soon as I was confronted by top players, I realised I was not that good. I ended up as an average third-tier player.
After his playing career fell apart, he set up a cleaning business which he owned for almost a decade.
-I often remember those years when I got up at 3 in the morning to go clean buildings, it helps keep all this in perspective, he said.
However, Renard never gave up soccer and started coaching with sixth-tier Vallauris and Draguignan on the Cote d'Azur.
It helped him catch the attention of former Cameroon coach Claude Le Roy, whom he followed around the world as an assistant at clubs and national sides. Renard took sole charge of Zambia in 2008 and beleives his story helped inspire his team to their AFCON win.
-Most of our players don't have the same background as other Africans, who play with top European clubs like Manchester City, he said.
-I have always believed in myself. Here in Africa, they recognise my skills, he finished.
Excerpts of the story courtesy of the football Association of Zambia.
|Pacos de Ferreira||
|Al Mokawloon Al Arab|